Posted on

What Healthcare Managers Need to Know about Employee Motivation

tired healthcare worker sitting against wall

Healthcare managers are facing the same struggles as other managers today: there is a shortage of workers who are qualified and willing to serve in organizational roles.

The Great Resignation has not ended. A recent Forbes article suggests that resignation rates remain stubbornly high, even as the number of jobs in healthcare has grown.

Healthcare managers struggling to find and keep staff members would benefit from understanding a couple of key concepts related to employee motivation. I’m speaking of how extrinsic motivational factors and intrinsic motivational factors influence employee satisfaction.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when an employee acts in order to obtain an external reward or to avoid punishment. Compensation and benefits are typical tools used by managers and organizations to foster extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when an employee acts based on personal rewards that are found in the act itself. Intrinsically-motivated employees are not seeking an external reward for their work because their satisfaction comes from within.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors drive employee satisfaction at work, and research has consistently shown an inverse relationship between employee satisfaction and employee turnover. In other words, increased job satisfaction tends to lower resignation rates.

On the surface, that may not come as a surprise. However, this recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that managerial perceptions about the reasons why employees resign are not necessarily accurate. SHRM explained:

“Executives are more likely to say that employees leave for better career opportunities and benefits. However, among the U.S. workers we surveyed, it was better compensation that most often prompted a new job search, followed by better work/life balance—which didn’t even make the top five reasons cited by executives.”

Although employees and managers agreed that compensation was the top factor driving today’s Great Resignation, it’s striking that the employees’ #2 reason for workforce turnover didn’t even make it onto the radar of the managers.

That’s where the extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors come into play. There are factors beyond pay and benefits that influence employee engagement and retention at work. Intrinsic motivation is a significant influence in decisions about where and when people choose to work.

Many healthcare workers began their careers based on intrinsic motivational factors such as the desire to help others, to make a difference, to treat injury and cure illness, or to become a member of the medical community. These reasons continue to be motivational for many healthcare workers today.

However, in the day-to-day pressures of administering healthcare, it’s easy to lose sight of those things. Today’s finance-driven models of healthcare skew heavily toward metrics. Healthcare teams are routinely asked to do more with less.

In such an environment, healthcare managers can influence employee satisfaction by bringing intrinsic motivational factors back into focus. Here are a few examples of how it can be done:

  • Point out to your caregiver(s) how they’ve made a difference in the life of a patient.
  • Acknowledge the exceptional skills or growing capabilities of your caregiver(s).
  • Ask your caregiver(s) why they choose to work in your organization. Allow the response to inform how you manage your team.
  • Consistently share the positive feedback you receive from patients with your caregivers.
  • Help younger workers integrate into the medical/organizational community.

These suggestions would help healthcare managers tap into the intrinsic motivation of their employees. As you can see, this doesn’t have to be complicated. It also doesn’t cost any money. It only takes time and deliberate managerial attention.

Today’s healthcare workers have been battered by COVID, rising inflation, the Great Resignation, and an ongoing staff shortage. As healthcare managers focus on both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, they will be more effective in raising overall job satisfaction and retaining their workers at a time when that has never been more critical.